COVID-19 disinformation more influential than domestic media


Coronavirus disinformation published by Chinese and Russian state media outlets in France, Spain, and Germany is in some cases reaching a greater audience on social media than news coverage of the global pandemic produced by major domestic media outlets in those countries, according to a study by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), RFE/RL reports:

The study, released by OII on June 29, found that the Russian international news network RT has achieved up to five times the number of engagements per article share on Twitter and Facebook with its French-language coronavirus coverage than the major French daily Le Monde. China Radio International (CTI), meanwhile, has generated four times the number of engagements per shared article than the leading Spanish newspaper El Pais.

“Many of these state-backed outlets blend reputable, fact-based reporting about the coronavirus with misleading or false information, which can lead to greater uncertainty among public audiences trying to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic,” OII research assistant Katarina Rebello said in a press release.

The co-author of the study, OII Director Philip Howard (author of Lie Machines,* left), said that along with Russia and China, state-backed media from Iran and Turkey were also targeting “French, German, and Spanish-speaking social-media users around the world with news on coronavirus.”

China is attempting to use journalists from non-English speaking countries to promote its policies beyond its borders in a concerted new push for influence, a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has found, The Guardian reports:

A survey of journalist unions across 58 countries found that through study tours, control of media infrastructure, and the provision of pro-Beijing content, China is “running an extensive and sophisticated long-term outreach campaign … [in] a strategic, long-term effort to reshape the global news landscape with a China-friendly global narrative”.

Beijing is  seeking to build control over messaging infrastructure – effectively the channels by which countries receive news – through foreign media acquisitions and large-scale telecommunications ventures, according to the IFJ report, The China Story: reshaping the world’s media.

*The subject of a recent discussion (above) organized by the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum.

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